Ed Gonzalez didn’t want to blame his team’s inexperience or its youth, but it was hard not to with the way his team played in key moments in front of a capacity crowd at Christ the King. There was the slow start, falling behind 10-0, the poor way it finished the first half, getting outscored 12-0, and the final nail in its coffin — failing to score for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Bishop Loughlin played well in spurts, but spurts Gonzalez lamented afterward, aren’t good enough to beat Christ the King, the defending CHSAA Class AA intersectional champion and New York State Federation Class AA champion, on its home court.
The Royals took advantage of the Lions’ inability to play four quarters and cruised to a 72-46 victory, advancing to last Friday night’s Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan title game against Holy Cross. Loughlin, meanwhile, will ready itself for the intersectional quarterfinals, either March 3 or 4.
“The good thing is we play again and now they know it’s all for the marbles,” Gonzalez said. “We’ll be ready. We have enough time to be prepared. They know it’s like the NCAA [Tournament] – you lose, you go home. I don’t think these guys are ready to go home.”
Junior Travis Charles played well, scoring 12 points, and Khadeen Carrington – one of four Loughlin freshman – followed with 10 points. Their teammates weren’t nearly good enough, on either end of the floor. Gonzalez said his team “wasn’t ready to play,” an odd statement considering this was a tournament against their rivals in front of a packed stands.
“When we got down, they put their heads down,” Gonzalez said. “That will come with experience, knowing there is still a lot of time left. I hadn’t seen that in them yet.”
The stage certainly seemed to shake Loughlin at the outset. The Lions either missed easy shots or turned the ball over while allowing easy basket on the other end. Once they got their footing and drew within 23-21 on the strength of a 10-2, Loughlin was unable to sustain that level of play.
Christ the King ended the half on a 12-0 spurt to take a commanding 35-21 edge into the break and scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to turn a manageable 12-point deficit into an enormous 21-point cushion.
“We didn’t do the little things that make a difference,” said Gonzalez, who pointed to turnovers and rebounding as his team’s biggest flaws.
In both instances, Loughlin had opportunities to ebb the Royals’ momentum, but couldn’t come up with the necessary plays.
The performance was consistent with the Lions’ off-kilter season, which began with four new starters and virtually an entirely revamped roster. They haven’t won more than three in a row, but did lose two straight on three occasions. They did enter that game playing their best ball, having won four of five, including victories over Holy Cross and Molloy.
“[Christ the King] did a good job of course,” Gonzalez said. “But we didn’t play the brand of basketball we’ve been playing the last couple of games.”